Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sustainable Coastal Environment and Livelihood Stressed

Southwest Coastal Conference
Impact of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on Coastal Rural Livelihood
Perspective: Cyclone Aila

10 July 2010, Saturday
Divisional Museum Auditorium, Khulna, Bangladesh

Even after more than 14 months of cyclone Aila the the affected 11 Unions of 3 Upazilas under Khulna and Satkhira Districts of Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh are still under water as the breached coastal embankments yet to be repaired. More than 125 thousand people are still living on the embankments while more than 87 thousand people had to become climate refugees because they lost their houses, possessions and traditional livelihoods. The areas are shifting to abandoned land as the trees and other environmental elements are degrading due to extreme saline water which remains in the localities since 25th May 2009, the date of Aila hit the areas. Water and Sanitation system of the areas are totally collapsed and thousands of people are crying for safe drinking water rather than food or shelter.
With support from Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) local people organized several movements under Aila Durgato Sanghati Mancho (Aila Victims Solidarity Committee) initiated by Humanitywatch, Khulna and Aila Biddhosto Bandh Nirman Gonosangram Parisad (Mass Movement Committee for Reconstruction of Aila damaged Embankments) initiated by Progoti, Satkhira when the government failed to reconstruct damaged embankments within December 2009. They organized Press Conference, Submission of Memorandum, Signboard Set-up, Sit-In Program, Human Chain, Dialogue with Policy Makers, Procession, Barricade, Child Rally, Student Movement, Journalists' Demonstration, Celebrity Visit and Regular updating letter to the Cabinet. Ally organization Nagorik Sanghati also organized several programs including Human Chain, Intellectual's Visit to the affected areas and media mobilization on the same demand.
After continuous movement in local and national level the BWDB issued Working Order in February 2010 but the reconstruction did not start in time. In the mean time monsoon came and water level started to rise. The contractors started reconstructing in Mid March but they did not follow the approve design, use inappropriate materials and construct in shorter in height and thickness. As a result the embankments collapsed again in the monsoon and people were again in peril.
The Food and Disaster Management Minister, Water Resource Minister and Parliamentary Standing committee said sorry to the people several times. The parliamentary committee formed a probing body to investigate inner cause of this failure and declared punishment of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) officials if they fail to reconstruct the embankments before 14th April 2010. But the situation remains unchanged even after strict order of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on 7th April 2010.
In the mean time, the Government of Bangladesh has allocated some 2,500 billion taka for reconstruction and maintenance of the embankments. Additionally, it is heard that the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) is coming forward to invest money for mega-projects on embankment maintenance from their climate change related funds. Due to bitter experience of Coastal Embankment Project (CEP) of 1960s and Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) of 1990's the coastal people are anxious about the future impacts of present initiatives.
The Southwest Coastal Conference is to seek a common position of Policy makers, Local Government leaders, Politicians, Academicians, Development Activists, Social movement leaders, Students and common peoples on Coastal Development with due consideration to climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental equilibrium. The conference is also to sensitize the policy leaders to take adequate measures to reconstruct Aila damaged embankments immediately.

The Southwest Coastal Conference started with the inaugural session conducted by Gouranga Nandy, Focal Person of Coastal Area Campaign Group and Bureau Chief of Daily Kaler Kantho. The inaugural session presided by Dilip Kumar Datta PhD, Head of Environmental Science Discipline of Khulna University while CSRL convener Dr. Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, Oxfam policy and advocacy manager Ziaul Hoque Mukta, Department of Environment assistant director Jamir Uddin Ahmed, Department of Agricultural Extension deputy director Makhan Lal Das and former Lawyers Association president Advocate Abdullah Hossain Bacchu was present as special guest and addressed the participants.
The working session started with the presentation of Khulna University Environmental Science teacher Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury and Kushal Roy. Dr. Chowdhury presented a brief on ecological loss of cyclone Aila while Mr. Roy presented the socioeconomic situation of cyclone Aila refugees in Khulna City. The session was chaired by former IPCC contributor and CSRL convener Dr. Ahsan Uddin Ahmed. Economist and columnist Professor Anowarul Kadir, Greater Khulna Development Movement Committee vice president Sheikh Ashraf-Uz-Zaman, Khulna University teacher of different Disciplines Dr. Abdul Mannan, Dr. Monirul Islam, Dr. Nazmul Ahsan, Dr. Rezaul Karim, Dr. Shamim Mahbubul Huq and MM Shafiqur Rahman, Water Rights Committee convener Humayun Kabir Boby, Journalist Gouranga Nandy, Progoti general secretary Ashek-E-Elahi, Saline Water Protesting Committee secretary Gourangaprosad Roy, BLAST coordinator Ashoke Saha, BELA coordinator Mahfuzur Rahman Mukul, Samaj Progoti Sangstha executive director Alamgir Islam Lablu, Rupayan executive director Khalid Hossain, LEDARS executive director Mohon Kumar Mondal, Muktir Alo director Abu Hasan Bakul and Humanitywatch chief executive Hasan Mehedi discussed on the presentation.
After open discussion, a 'Khulna Declaration to protect lives and livelihoods of southwest coastal region from impact of climate change and environmental degradation' was taken with consensus of all participants. Members of Bangladesh National Parliament Advocate Sohrab Ali Sana and Nani Gopal Mondal agreed signed on the Declaration.

Khulna Declaration
to protect lives and livelihoods of southwest coastal region from
impact of climate change and environmental degradation

Saturday, 10 July 2010, 25 Asharh 1416
Khulna, Bangladesh

We, more than two hundred representatives from different sectors of the society including Members of Parliament, Local Government, Political Parties, Researcher, Teacher, Women Rights Movement, Sociocultural organisation, Students' Organisation, Development Organisation, Small and marginal Farmer and Forest and Indigenous Communities of Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh,
Gathering today on tenth of July Two thousand Ten AD in the eve of 'Southwest Coastal Conference on Impact of Climate Change on Coastal Livelihood: Perspective Cyclone Aila' at Khulna Divisional City,
Recalling the potentials of world heritage the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, fertile alluvial land, billion tons of sediments, disaster-tolerant local rice varieties, rivers and canals like arteries and rich traditional cultural practices;
Concerned for the vulnerabilities of the rural livelihoods such as small and marginal farmer, agricultural labour, fisherman and other natural resource dependant people of Southwest region due to frequent and intensive natural disasters including cyclone Aila, adverse impact of climate change and environmental degradation and unwise development initiatives;
Emphasising on emergence of short, mid and long term initiatives as because the livelihood and ecological problems becomes complicated for climate change induced vulnerabilities and adverse impacts of infrastructural mega projects financed by the Multinational Development Banks (MDBs), Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and 'Donor Organizations' from developed countries;
Solely proclaiming these 21-point demands as Khulna Declaration and urging the Government of Bangladesh to implement this declaration for sustainable rural livelihoods of southwest coastal region of Bangladesh:
1. Allocate sufficient financial resources immediately for reconstruction of cyclone Aila damaged embankments. Finalize working schedule, tender notice and other necessary activities within September 2010 to complete reconstruction of the breached embankments within December 2010. Take alternative measures to complete this task considering failure of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) in last year;
2. Identify and repair all weakened coastal embankments of southwest coastal region in priority basis. Inter alia ensuring transparency and accountability of BWDB is must to complete this task;
3. Depositing sedimentation in cultivable wetlands of southwest coastal region is must to meet the challenges of land subsidence, sea level rise and wide-spread water logging. To achieve this end, implement Tidal River Management (TRM) in this region as an integral part of the embankments;
4. Update the Embankment Protection Act 1952 and adopt seven years jail for making hole in, illegal cut or any other damage of the embankments. Simultaneously, ensure local small and marginal farmers participation in embankment management;
5. Increase the height of coastal embankments southwest region to eight mitres like southeast and use geo-fibre and iron-net to make it capable of protecting cyclone and tidal surges. Construct roads and highways on the embankments to ensure proper and regular use of them;
6. Stop leasing of riverbanks create environments of planting mangrove forest at outside of the embankments. Stop leasing of state-owned canals and water bodies within the polder. Protect these common resources to use for freshwater reservoir for irrigation for agricultural production, and for natural fish varieties;
7. Provide agricultural tools including fertilizer, seeds and irrigation support to the cyclone Aila affected small and marginal farmers. At the same time, promote local saline and disaster tolerant varieties by banning distribution of hybrid and Genetically Modified (GM) seeds which have come from unknown sources;
8. Provide adequate scholarships and free educational materials to the cyclone Aila affected students to ensure their smooth primary, secondary and higher education;
9. Change the mindset of Cordon Approach of implementing cross dams, river training, flood control and water development, and adopt a different Embankment Management Policy with attitude of sedimentation and water management. Simultaneously, crash the upstream dams to ensure freshwater in the coastal river and canals;
10. Ban the brackish water shrimp cultivation in the agricultural land of coastal region considering its adverse long term socioeconomic and environmental impact.
11. Immediately finance and undertake socioeconomic development projects for climate victims including cyclone Aila induced refugees;
12. Create joint and continuous international pressure on the developed industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission and ensure reparations for capacity building to reduce vulnerabilities of climate induced disasters;
13. Assess environmental impacts and take local people's opinion considering negative impacts of climate change before undertaking Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other IFIs financed mega project in the coastal zone;
14. Establish an Adaptation and Mitigation Centre in southwest coastal region considering frequency and adversity of disasters in this region. At the same time, construct one cyclone shelter for every one thousand people in the disaster-prone areas;
15. Provide support to the poor people for constructing disaster-tolerant, environment-friendly and long-lasting houses in southwest coastal region. To this end, undertake an Integrated Settlement Plan for this region. Simultaneously, undertake sustainable measures for safe drinking water and sanitation considering increased salinity and tidal surge;
16. Protect illegal wood extraction, forest bandits and corruption to protect world's largest single track mangrove forest, the Sundarbans;
17. Stop refusing traditional rights of forest peoples of the Sundarbans in the name of conserving biodiversity after disasters like cyclone Aila. At the same time, stop using the Sundarbans as a Carbon Reservoir for corporate Carbon Trading in the name of Climate Change Mitigation;
18. Excavate and dredge dead rivers of the region and smash the entire infrastructure which are creating barrier to drainage. Keep at least fifty mitres water channel in every kilometre of roads and highways;
19. Do not allow any international debt-trade or profit-driven trade aggression to take chance of disaster, extreme salinity, climate-tolerant seed, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), green technology, water scarcity etc.;
20. Reactivate Coastal Development Board (CDB) and implement the recommendation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (ICZMP) for sustainable development of coastal zone;
21. Amend the National Water Policy and Agricultural Policy to incorporate specific measures for reducing vulnerabilities of coastal zone;

We again urge to the Government of Bangladesh to implement these demands of Khulna Declaration and to promote sustainable rural livelihoods of coastal disaster affected people.

The conference closed at 4:30 after declaring the Khulna Declaration.

Several national and local Newspapers including daily Prothom Alo, daily Newage, daily Jugantor, daily Jaijaidin, daily, daily Purbanchal, daily Probaho, daily Probartan, daily Janmabhumi, daily Tathya and daily Anirban published news of the conference with due importance.
Please see the links for newspaper coverages:
Daily Prothom Alo:

Daily Kaler Kantho:

Daily Newage:

Daily Jaijaidin:

Online daily